Someone once told me that trying to find their life purpose had them feeling like Charlie Bucket looking for a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – hopeful, but nihilistically aware of how little chance there was that they’d be heading anywhere other than back to their current unfulfilling life. What nobody told Charlie was that he had really been chosen to receive his ticket and was destined to inherit the factory as a reward for being himself. What nobody tells you about finding your purpose is that you’re already doing it.
Finding your life purpose is a natural, life-long, developmental process that will never be the “fill-in-the-blank” question it’s often made out to be. Many people approach life purpose like they approach a career day in high school. They look quizzically at the different options that have been placed in front of them (careers, relationships, opportunities, etc.), expectantly waiting for the lightbulb moment that tells them “it’s this way!” Inevitably, they are discouraged when this doesn’t happen. What nobody tells you about finding your purpose is that there isn’t one right answer you should wait to stumble across. Your purpose is a result of your life – it is about the small stuff, the things that come naturally to you and the things that you love.
Don’t be the Charlie who resigns himself to a grey life because his first chocolate bar didn’t hold that golden ticket. Be the Charlie who buys another and who braves the factory of the wild and mad Wonka. Your purpose doesn’t have one manifestation, and it won’t walk up to you wearing an “I’m your life purpose” t-shirt. If you feel discouraged and like you just don’t have a life purpose, I invite you to reconsider. Take a look at this list and start looking in a new direction, with a new perspective, rather than settling for what life hands you. Find out what nobody tells you about your finding your purpose and free yourself to actually find it.
It starts with the small stuff: If you want to find your life purpose, start by noticing what you like and how you like doing things. Nothing is too small. How do you approach making breakfast? What do you do in your free time? All of the little things you do give you clues that will collectively help you see your life purpose.
It’s all about what you love: What we love, the way we love it, and the frustrations that we experience in relationship to what we love all help us recognize our life purpose. If you have an affinity for the arts, comic books, or snails, listen! There is some echo of your life purpose in the things that you are drawn toward.
You likely do it naturally: We are made to live our life purpose. There are no mistakes. Our life purpose is made for us and we are made for it. You have everything that you need in terms of aptitude to fulfill your life purpose. You might need to learn some skills along the way, but you have the basics, realized or unrealized, to make it happen.
It is not always a career: Your life purpose is not always about your career. It is helpful to think about how you can live your life purpose across all areas in your life (including your career), but do not limit yourself. Be open to the many ways that that your life purpose can manifest across your life, and you will be more likely to live it.
You have your whole life to figure it out: Oops, did I say that out loud? Finding your life purpose is as much an approach to life as it is a destination. It is to see your life like a piece of artwork and to hone and develop it from start to finish. May you be questing after your life purpose in your final days in the same way you will be learning to love more completely.
You are already underway: Even if you do not have the slightest idea what your life purpose is, you are already underway. Just asking the question implies a certain amount of progress. You do not need to be aware of your steps toward your life purpose for them to count.